NorthSEE Project and Maritime Spatial Planning Challenge 2050 Game

Be a marine planner for the day

By Kirsty Wright, NorthSEE Project Officer at Marine Scotland Science (MSS)

Is Scotland’s majestic marine environment part of your daily life, be it for work or pleasure? From fishing, recreation, shipping, to tourism, or just enjoying a walk on the beach with your dog; all of these activities take place in our oceans and seas, making it a pretty busy place. These have to be managed carefully to avoid conflicts and help to protect our magnificent marine environment including marine wildlife, such as dolphins, whales, sharks, birds and fish. Managing this difficult task is the job of marine planners.

In order to give people an insight into the world of marine planning Marine Scotland, which is the government division that manages the use and protection of Scotland’s seas, organised a workshop where people came along to play a game (yes a game!) to help introduce them to the concept of Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) and the real life decisions facing marine planners. When I sent out invitations to stakeholders to come and play a game as part of their work, they were only too keen to dive in!

Marine Scotland is the project lead for energy, as part of an EU INTERREG funded project called NorthSEE. The project focuses on MSP which is a process to help balance competing interests in the sea (such as fishing, offshore energy and recreation) and protect the marine environment at the same time. This is particularly important in the North Sea – one of the busiest seas in the world. Marine Scotland is working with all of the countries that border the North Sea: Belgium, Denmark, The Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and Norway. They all manage their own section of the North Sea through national marine plans. These plans help to identify areas for activities where there is the least conflict with other users. The NorthSEE project aims to improve these marine plans by getting the countries to work together and share information on MSP. 

In October 2018, Marine Scotland hosted a workshop in Aberdeen which brought together members from North Sea countries and the expertise of some of Scotland’s energy experts in offshore wind, floating wind and undersea cables. We wanted to discuss the future of offshore energy in the North Sea from a MSP perspective and the MSP Challenge Game is the perfect platform to do this.

The development of offshore energy in the North Sea, and in particular offshore wind, is accelerating at a fast pace in order to meet ambitious energy goals set by the Scottish Government and the European Union. Scotland is aiming for renewable sources of energy to generate the equivalent of 100% of Scotland’s gross annual electricity consumption by 2020. It has already met the 2015 target of 50% and is well on the way to meeting the 2020 target. This is a major driver for the growth of offshore energy and Scotland’s North Sea region has the largest potential for offshore wind compared to Scotland’s other marine regions. We have already seen impressive advancements in offshore wind technology in the form of Scotland’s two floating wind projects, Hywind and Kincardine Offshore Windfarm. Scotland also has a goal to increase their energy security in the form of interconnectors, which are electricity cables that share energy across borders. An exciting project which aims to be in operation by 2022 is the NorthConnect interconnector which will connect Scotland to Norway and allow us to share our wind energy in exchange for Norway’s storable hydro energy. The MSP Challenge game creates a real-life scenario where all of this information can be visualised in a virtual reality. Running in the background of the game is environmental modelling software which can cleverly simulate the potential environmental impacts or consequences of the player’s planning decisions. Players can then use this information to try to meet the real-life energy targets set by Governments.

The MSP Challenge is a collective name for a suite of board and digital games for higher education, professional training and stakeholder engagement or involvement within MSP. It creates a platform for learning and negotiation in MSP that is evidence based and well connected to marine data. The board game is a role-playing game which introduces players to the concept of MSP and the digital version is a laptop based game which gives players a more complete experience of MSP.

Players pick which role they want to play, from the list of: marine planner, fishermen, sailor, harbour authority, wind farm developer, tourism representative or environmentalist, and then they begin to get into that role. In order to succeed, players have to negotiate, compromise, defend their positions and make the best decisions based on the situation they are faced with. This interactive and safe environment sparks interesting discussions and brings out both a competitive and collaborative side of players. At the end of the day, the aim of the game is to be able to plan activities in the marine environment to achieve goals but not at the expense of the marine environment or other marine users. This is the real goal of the ‘winner’.

The board game version of the MSP Challenge Game has travelled around the coast of Scotland, including a trip ‘doon the water’ of the Clyde as part of another European funded project called SIMCelt which focused on MSP in the Celtic Seas. There is also a Baltic Sea version of the digital game which was developed for another MSP project called BalticLINes. The NorthSEE and the BalticLINes projects are coming together in February 2019 in Hamburg, Germany to share MSP knowledge across sea basins. The conference name ‘Connecting Seas’ is very fitting.

Maritime Spatial Planning is an important tool in the management of our seas and Scotland continues to be at the fore-front of offshore energy development and achieving our goals for a ‘greener’, more energy efficient Scotland.

With thanks to Kirsty Wright and everyone at Marine Scotland Science (MSS).

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